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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Two Fears, Dovetailed

National Journal
By Ronald Brownstein
January 27, 2016

In an elec­tion year riv­eted to an un­pre­ced­en­ted ex­tent by changes in the na­tion’s demo­graphy, Amer­ic­ans di­vide al­most ex­actly in half on wheth­er im­mig­ra­tion—and the na­tion’s in­creas­ing di­versity—is mak­ing life in the United States bet­ter or worse, ac­cord­ing to the latest All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll.

The in-depth sur­vey of 1,000 Amer­ic­ans also found that they split al­most evenly on wheth­er the na­tion of­fers chil­dren of all races an ad­equate op­por­tun­ity to suc­ceed. But a sol­id ma­jor­ity of re­spond­ents now re­jects the no­tion that chil­dren from all in­come groups have suf­fi­cient chances to get ahead. And only small minor­it­ies of those polled say the na­tion is do­ing bet­ter at provid­ing equal op­por­tun­ity for all races, all in­come groups, and all gen­er­a­tions.

To­geth­er, these re­sponses cap­ture some of the com­plex and even con­tra­dict­ory emo­tions driv­ing the tur­bu­lent de­bate about the na­tion’s chan­ging iden­tity, one that is rum­bling through the pres­id­en­tial race. The twin con­cerns about the im­pact of grow­ing di­versity and the wan­ing op­por­tun­ity for chil­dren from all in­come groups of­fer more evid­ence that rap­id demo­graph­ic change and a sus­tained eco­nom­ic stag­na­tion have con­verged, pro­du­cing a deeply volat­ile com­pound of anxi­ety.

Apart from the con­cern about the im­pact of im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity on na­tion­al se­cur­ity, which ex­ten­ded broadly through so­ci­ety, many of these ques­tions split Amer­ic­ans along clear and con­sist­ent lines of race, edu­ca­tion, age, and party pref­er­ence.

The per­sist­ence and depth of those fis­sures un­der­score the ex­tent to which at­ti­tudes to­ward the demo­graph­ic trans­form­a­tion that is rap­idly re­mak­ing Amer­ica have be­come a cent­ral fault line between the polit­ic­al parties. The Re­pub­lic­an co­ali­tion is heav­ily de­pend­ent on the white voters most un­settled by the change, while the Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion re­lies mainly on the eth­nic­ally di­verse and urb­an­ized groups most com­fort­able with the new demo­graph­ic and cul­tur­al dy­nam­ics. The one not­able ex­cep­tion to this pat­tern: Afric­an Amer­ic­ans, a solidly Demo­crat­ic con­stitu­ency, ex­press am­bi­val­ence if not out­right un­ease about the im­pact of im­mig­ra­tion and demo­graph­ic change.

This latest Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll marks the 25th sur­vey con­duc­ted in the series, which began in April 2009. For this sur­vey, we have re­prised some of the most im­port­ant ques­tions asked in earli­er polls, mainly from their first two years, to doc­u­ment how Amer­ic­an at­ti­tudes have changed, or haven’t, since the depths of the Great Re­ces­sion in 2008 and 2009.

The new res­ults found a sig­ni­fic­ant de­cline since 2009 in the now-bare ma­jor­ity of re­spond­ents who be­lieve that all Amer­ic­ans have suf­fi­cient chances to suc­ceed in life. In the Ju­ly 2009 poll, 65 per­cent of those sur­veyed agreed that “chil­dren from all races grow­ing up today have ad­equate op­por­tun­it­ies to be suc­cess­ful.” That skid­ded to just 51 per­cent in the new sur­vey. The pro­por­tion who said chil­dren from all races did not have suf­fi­cient chances to get ahead jumped from 33 per­cent to 47 per­cent.

The per­cep­tion that all chil­dren can suc­ceed has eroded in all ra­cial groups. Since 2009, it has fallen from about three-fifths to just over half among whites; from about three-fourths to just un­der three-fifths among His­pan­ics; and, most dra­mat­ic­ally, from about three-fourths to just un­der half among Afric­an Amer­ic­ans. The ver­dict var­ies little by gen­er­a­tion, with mem­bers of the mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion (at 53 per­cent) about as likely as those from the “Si­lent Gen­er­a­tion”—people born from the mid-1920s in­to the ‘40s—and older (at 55 per­cent) to say chil­dren of all races can get ahead.

Tonya An­gelo, an Afric­an-Amer­ic­an cater­er from San Pedro, Cali­for­nia, who is now on dis­ab­il­ity leave, be­lieves op­por­tun­ity is still dis­trib­uted too un­evenly. “All of us [who are] con­sidered minor­it­ies, we’ve been liv­ing at the same level since we were born,” the 38-year-old said. “A lot of us got edu­ca­tion and de­grees and all that and still can’t get a good-pay­ing job. You might have made a mis­take when you were young­er … or you might not know the right per­son to get in­to that place to make that kind of money. A lot of minor­it­ies are hindered for that.”

One group was con­spicu­ously more likely to say that chil­dren from all races can suc­ceed: Re­pub­lic­ans. Sixty-five per­cent of them said so, com­pared to about half of polit­ic­al in­de­pend­ents and only about two-fifths of Demo­crats. Robert Flem­ing, a 33-year-old former in­tel­li­gence work­er in Cicero, New York, was one of those Re­pub­lic­ans. “If you want to work hard, don’t give up, don’t take no for an an­swer, you’ll get some­where,” he said. “The world is not a so­cial ex­per­i­ment. You make your own op­por­tun­it­ies. If you don’t make any, it’s not be­cause of any­body else’s fault. It’s your fault.”

The con­sensus was broad­er, if gloom­i­er, when people were asked to as­sess the na­tion’s ac­tu­al pro­gress in equal­iz­ing op­por­tun­ity for all races. Just 33 per­cent of those sur­veyed said that the United States has been do­ing bet­ter dur­ing the past dec­ade “at provid­ing equal op­por­tun­ity for people” of every race, down sub­stan­tially from 48 per­cent in May 2011. Nearly as many—29 per­cent in the new poll, up from 17 per­cent—said things have grown worse. (A plur­al­ity of 36 per­cent, up from 33 per­cent, saw little change.) Afric­an Amer­ic­ans were slightly more likely than whites or His­pan­ics to see op­por­tun­ity as ex­pand­ing; even so, only two-fifths of blacks saw pro­gress.

At­ti­tudes have also dimmed on the ques­tion of wheth­er the na­tion provides ad­equate op­por­tun­it­ies “for chil­dren from all in­come groups” to suc­ceed. In the new poll, just 40 per­cent said yes, down from 48 per­cent in Ju­ly 2009, while fully 59 per­cent (up from 50 per­cent) said no. The be­lief that chil­dren from all fam­il­ies don’t get an equal shot at suc­cess has grown widely, the new sur­vey found. Only about two-fifths of whites and Afric­an Amer­ic­ans said chil­dren from all in­come groups had suf­fi­cient chance to suc­ceed; His­pan­ics were only slightly more likely (at 45 per­cent) to see pos­it­ive trends. Like­wise, no more than about two-fifths of mil­len­ni­als, Gen­er­a­tion X-ers, and baby boomers saw suf­fi­cient op­por­tun­ity across class lines; only re­spond­ents from the Si­lent Gen­er­a­tion and older were slightly more op­tim­ist­ic (at 50 per­cent).

In a meas­ure of Amer­ic­ans’ con­tinu­ing be­lief in in­di­vidu­al ini­ti­at­ive, re­spond­ents in house­holds with in­comes be­low $50,000 were ac­tu­ally like­li­er than those from wealth­i­er house­holds to be­lieve that chil­dren from all classes had suf­fi­cient op­por­tun­ity to suc­ceed. Like­wise, whites without a col­lege de­gree were more likely to see suf­fi­cient op­por­tun­ity than those with ad­vanced edu­ca­tion. But ma­jor­it­ies of both up­per- and lower-in­come re­spond­ents, and of whites with and without a col­lege de­gree, doubted that chil­dren of every class got enough of a chance to get ahead.

Kar­en Smith, an edu­ca­tion pro­fess­or in Farm­ing­ton, Maine, is among those who be­lieve the evid­ence is now in­dis­put­able that op­por­tun­it­ies aren’t equal across ra­cial and class lines. “Stu­dents that are in the lower ech­el­on do not even come close to reap­ing the be­ne­fits and the op­por­tun­it­ies that are avail­able to the ones who are in the up­per-in­come brack­ets,” she said. “There’s a huge gap and a di­vide. That’s not even my opin­ion. I’m basing that on fact, on data, on evid­ence.”

Asked to as­sess the na­tion’s ac­tu­al pro­gress in ex­tend­ing op­por­tun­ity across class lines, just 21 per­cent of the poll’s re­spond­ents said the United States has been do­ing bet­ter at provid­ing equal op­por­tun­ity across all in­come groups dur­ing the past 10 years. Nearly twice as many—40 per­cent—said the coun­try is do­ing worse, while 36 per­cent saw no change. The ver­dict was com­par­ably cloudy on the na­tion’s pro­gress at equal­iz­ing op­por­tun­ity across all gen­er­a­tions: 27 per­cent saw im­prove­ment, 33 per­cent said the situ­ation is get­ting worse, and 36 per­cent saw no change. Mil­len­ni­als were the like­li­est re­spond­ents to see pro­gress, though only 36 per­cent of them did.

The sense, broadly shared, that the op­por­tun­ity for suc­cess is con­strict­ing provides an im­port­ant back­drop to the di­vided and con­flic­ted re­sponses about the im­pact of im­mig­ra­tion and the ac­cel­er­a­tion in demo­graph­ic di­versity. Already, Amer­ic­ans of col­or, nearly 40 per­cent of the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion, com­prise a ma­jor­ity of chil­dren young­er than five, and of all stu­dents in pub­lic schools na­tion­wide. Be­fore 2020, they are ex­pec­ted to be­come a ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans young­er than 18. This year, for the first time, minor­it­ies could ac­count for 30 per­cent of the na­tion­al elect­or­ate.

After not­ing the “large-scale im­mig­ra­tion” of re­cent years and the fact that “ra­cial and eth­nic minor­it­ies now com­prise more than one-third of the Amer­ic­an pop­u­la­tion,” the poll­sters asked re­spond­ents about the ef­fects on spe­cif­ic as­pects of na­tion­al life and on the coun­try over­all.

The an­swers leaned to­ward the pos­it­ive, on two meas­ures. Fifty per­cent of those polled said im­mig­ra­tion and grow­ing di­versity have had a pos­it­ive ef­fect on Amer­ic­an cul­ture, while only 36 per­cent said the im­pact has been neg­at­ive. Sim­il­arly, 47 per­cent said im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity have im­proved their loc­al com­munity, while only 29 per­cent said the op­pos­ite. But the re­ac­tion was dark­er when ques­tions turned to the eco­nomy—47 per­cent of adults saw the im­pact of im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity as mostly neg­at­ive, versus 36 per­cent who saw it as mostly pos­it­ive. In a meas­ure of how fears of ter­ror­ism are roil­ing the im­mig­ra­tion de­bate, a more de­cis­ive 55 per­cent said im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity have ad­versely af­fected na­tion­al se­cur­ity; just 25 per­cent saw a pos­it­ive ef­fect.

The bot­tom line was a vir­tu­ally even split in opin­ion: 43 per­cent of re­spond­ents said im­mig­ra­tion and grow­ing di­versity have had a pos­it­ive im­pact “on the na­tion over­all,” while 44 per­cent said the im­pact has been mostly neg­at­ive.

The con­cerns about na­tion­al se­cur­ity crossed al­most all demo­graph­ic cat­egor­ies (al­though par­tis­an Demo­crats, mil­len­ni­als, and His­pan­ics were less likely than oth­ers to ex­press anxi­ety). The oth­er ques­tions, however, showed pat­terns of di­ver­gence that are con­sist­ent with the align­ments that now define Amer­ic­an polit­ics.

Core con­stitu­en­cies in the mod­ern Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion viewed these changes in mostly pos­it­ive terms: 61 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als, 57 per­cent of His­pan­ics, and 53 per­cent of col­lege-edu­cated white wo­men, the sur­vey found, said im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity have mostly be­nefited the coun­try.

Ker­ie Ams­den, a 38-year-old white wo­man in Hunter, Mis­souri, who is study­ing for a col­lege de­gree in ad­min­is­tra­tion, be­lieves that im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity are strength­en­ing Amer­ica. “Leg­al im­mig­ra­tion is what our coun­try stands on—it makes us more di­verse, it al­lows us the abil­ity to learn about oth­er people,” she said. “I tell my kids all the time that I feel like their gen­er­a­tion is the one that is go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the world, be­cause they don’t see a dif­fer­ence in one per­son or the oth­er be­cause of the col­or of their skin or wheth­er they’re from Mex­ico, Saudi Ar­a­bia, or from Ger­many or any­where else in the world. They learn about that per­son and they real­ize we have things in com­mon, we en­joy the same things, we have the same goals, we have the same val­ues. And they don’t judge them. They judge them by who they are, but not where they’re from or the col­or of their skin.”

In stark con­trast, the be­lief that im­mig­ra­tion be­ne­fits the coun­try over­all was echoed by just 33 per­cent of white men—and 35 per­cent of white wo­men—without a col­lege de­gree and by 33 per­cent of whites over 50; these are all groups that now solidly lean Re­pub­lic­an and make up a big share of the party’s voters in primary elec­tions.

Mike Ben­nett, a 50-year-old con­struc­tion work­er in South San Fran­cisco, is a Re­pub­lic­an who is pas­sion­ate about im­mig­ra­tion. He sees it as an un­al­loyed threat to the na­tion’s se­cur­ity—“I think they should close the bor­ders … es­pe­cially with people com­ing from Syr­ia and Rus­sia”—and also to U.S. prosper­ity. “It’s taken away our jobs,” he said. “We don’t need to take people from Mex­ico and bring them here just to farm. That takes away from our tax dol­lars, hon­estly.”

In all, 61 per­cent of Demo­crats said the im­pact of im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity on the na­tion over­all has mostly been pos­it­ive. Among Re­pub­lic­ans, 69 per­cent found the im­pact mostly neg­at­ive. Col­lege-edu­cated white men (at 43 per­cent pos­it­ive, 45 per­cent neg­at­ive) and polit­ic­al in­de­pend­ents (42 per­cent pos­it­ive, 45 per­cent neg­at­ive) teetered between those two views.

The big an­om­aly: Afric­an Amer­ic­ans ex­pressed much more con­cern about im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity than did oth­er ele­ments of the Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion. Oth­er polls in re­cent years have found Afric­an Amer­ic­ans’ anxi­ety over im­mig­ra­tion on the de­cline, but the Heart­land Mon­it­or sur­vey de­tec­ted a clear note of con­cern. While a strong ma­jor­ity of blacks said im­mig­ra­tion has be­nefited their com­munity, slightly less than half saw ad­vant­ages for Amer­ic­an cul­ture. More Afric­an Amer­ic­ans saw neg­at­ive (46 per­cent) than pos­it­ive (38 per­cent) im­pacts on the eco­nomy, and they split al­most evenly (43 per­cent pos­it­ive versus 41 per­cent neg­at­ive) on what it has meant for the na­tion over­all.

Be­hind those broad con­clu­sions of­ten lies an am­bi­val­ence. Jam­ie Wil­li­ams is an Afric­an Amer­ic­an in the Bronx who was re­cently laid off from his job in a ware­house. “I think that every­body de­serves an op­por­tun­ity to bet­ter their life and to provide for their fam­ily,” he said. “If there are people out there who are will­ing to work longer hours and for less pay, if they’re will­ing to do that, God bless them. The last time I checked, I’ve nev­er seen a broke Mex­ic­an. [But] I think it has a neg­at­ive im­pact on the eco­nomy be­cause they’re will­ing to ac­cept lower pay for something that they should be get­ting min­im­um wage for.”

The poll and the fol­low-on in­ter­views also make clear how much the anxi­et­ies about the eco­nomy and about the na­tion’s evolving demo­graph­ics have be­come in­ter­twined. Re­spond­ents who be­lieve that today’s young people will have more op­por­tun­ity than adults do now are mostly pos­it­ive about im­mig­ra­tion and the na­tion’s grow­ing di­versity: 58 per­cent of them say this mostly be­ne­fits the coun­try. Even a plur­al­ity (48 per­cent) of those who be­lieve the next gen­er­a­tion’s op­por­tun­it­ies will re­main un­changed are pos­it­ive about the demo­graph­ic changes. But those who think today’s young people will have few­er op­por­tun­it­ies are deeply pess­im­ist­ic about im­mig­ra­tion and di­versity—63 per­cent of them said the ef­fects are mostly bad.

All of which sug­gests that the na­tion­al wor­ries over eco­nom­ic op­por­tun­ity and demo­graph­ic change have com­bined, cre­at­ing a mix­ture even more com­bust­ible—for the na­tion’s so­ci­ety, eco­nomy, and polit­ics—than either alone.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

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